The Internet and Campaign 2010

by Aaron Smith, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project

More than half of all American adults were online political users in 2010

Fully 73% of adult internet users (representing 54% of all U.S. adults) went online to get news or information about the 2010 midterm elections, or to get involved in the campaign in one way or another. We refer to these individuals as “online political users” and our definition includes anyone who did at least one of the following activities in 2010:

Go online to take part in specific political activities, such as watch political videos, share election-related content or “fact check” political claims – 53% of adult internet users did at least one of the eleven online political activities we measured in 2010.
Use Twitter or social networking sites for political purposes – One in five online adults (22%) used Twitter or a social networking site for political purposes in 2010.1
Taken together, 73% of online adults took part in at least one of these activities in 2010. Although our definition of an online political user has changed significantly over time, the overall audience for political engagement and information-seeking has grown since the most recent midterm election cycle in 2006 — using a different array of activities to measure online political activity, we found at that time that 31% of adults used the internet for campaign-related purposes.

As an example of the changing landscape for online politics since the last midterm contest, the proportion of internet users who viewed campaign-related videos online jumped from 19% in 2006 to 31% in 2010. Similarly, as recently as the 2006 election cycle just 16% of online adults used online social networking sites; today roughly six in ten online adults are social networkers, and these sites have emerged as a key part of the political landscape in the most recent campaign cycle.

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